Privacy and Policy Implications of the Coming AI Revolution

January 11, 2018

Picture, if you will, 10 years into the future. What do you see? A modern society where human and machine work hand in hand to solve history’s greatest conundrums, or the imminent collapse of human civilization at the hands of our robot overlords? The second scenario is a little dramatic (and less likely) but nonetheless helps to illustrate the two seemingly polar views of artificial intelligence (AI) – as either a boon for humankind or a creator of even more problems. We might actually see something in between those two scenarios: AI and robots will cause societal growing pains, but both will largely prove valuable in many industries and applications such as health care, cybersecurity and transportation.

One area in particular where AI is poised to make a huge difference (and frankly, already has) is the field of cybersecurity. A recent study from Frost & Sullivan and (ISC)² found that the global cybersecurity workforce will have more than 1.5 million unfilled positions by 2020. It’s clear there’s a huge need for skilled cyber workers in the public and private sectors, but there aren’t enough to go around.

AI can fill a critical need in that can help with more mundane, repetitive tasks, leaving higher-order, contextual human thinking to deal with sophisticated attacks. This can significantly alter the way cyber professionals do their jobs – for the better. Machine learning is great at repetitive tasks, like making calculations based on large chunks of data, at scale, isolating the most relevant things and identifying patterns for security teams to focus on. On the flip side, the human brain understands context and other situational anomalies which machines don’t. When they aren’t mired in repetitive minutiae, security teams can focus on higher-order thinking and understand data in context – and, ideally, act.

It remains to be seen how other industries will be affected by AI. But there’s no mincing words here: AI is going to impact the job market, improving productivity, replacing some low-skilled functions and creating opportunities for new jobs. There are always people or groups negatively affected by technological automation, and not all of these folks are easily retrained or can shield their families from any hardships of sudden unemployment. But as with previous revolutions in industrial development, the possibilities for applying AI to boost innovation and growth, improve societies and advance human welfare are substantial.

In addition to employment, another area to address with AI involves rethinking privacy. Many privacy frameworks, like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Fair Information Practice Principles and proactive approaches like Privacy by Design, have withstood both the test of time and the evolution of new technology. But with major technological advancements, we have had to “rethink” how these models apply in the new environment.

As AI continues to both advance and permeate the digital economy, it will be crucial to keep an open dialogue among industry, academia and policymakers on issues such as job creation and loss, privacy and ethics. Back in October, we attempted to jump-start the conversation by recommending several public policy principles for AI to define not only where AI will get used but how it will be used. Our recommendations were to:

  1. Foster innovation and open development
  2. Create new human employment opportunities and protect people’s welfare
  3. Liberate data responsibly
  4. Rethink privacy
  5. Require accountability for ethical design and implementation systems.

A public policy conversation is necessary now as we work to develop new methods for integrating AI capabilities into the fabric of society. I’m looking forward to continuing the discussion as AI evolves.

About the Author

Jackie Medecki is the director and managing attorney of cybersecurity and privacy policy for Intel Corporation. She has been with Intel over 10 years and recently completed her tenure as chief of staff to the corporate secretary.  Jackie has experience in privacy and security issues through her work as a marketing law expert and a long history of engagement in public policy.